Several of Floyd’s siblings and his children returned to the steps of the Hennepin County Government Center, where just weeks ago a jury found former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death and where three other former officers charged in his killing are set to go on trial next year.
While many praised Chauvin’s conviction, calling it a first step toward “justice,” the family spoke of their enduring loss and continued questions about why Floyd died.
“I still don’t know why,” said Bridgett Floyd, his younger sister, who now runs a memorial foundation in her brother’s name. Taking the stage at a rally before the march, she spoke of the family’s pain and how their lives had changed in the “blink of an eye.”
“It’s been a long year. It’s been a painful year,” Bridgett Floyd said. “That officer doesn’t understand what he took from us.”
Floyd was remembered a year after his death sent millions across the country into the streets in some of the largest sustained protests in American history. Minneapolis, the city at the center of that movement, continues to struggle with its own reckoning over policing and racial justice.
His younger sister joined other speakers — including the Rev. Al Sharpton and civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Floyd family — who said the fight for justice continues, even with Chauvin’s conviction.
Speaking before an audience that included several elected officials, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), Crump called out dozens of names of other Black men and women who had been killed by police, including Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man who was shot by a suburban Minneapolis police officer during a traffic stop last month during Chauvin’s trial.
“We are better than this, America. We need to have a more just America!” Crump said.
He pointed to the disproportionately violent response of police across the country when it comes to Black people, compared with White suspects, citing several recent cases where Black men have been shot at and killed while running away from the police.
“What is it about a Black man running away from the police that it is the most dangerous thing in America?” Crump asked, looking directly toward Frey and other elected officials who sat nearby.
Both he and Sharpton called for additional police reforms to be enacted nationwide, including the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act — which has been approved by the U.S. House but has languished in the Senate. Floyd’s family has been invited to the White House on Tuesday to meet with President Biden, which Sharpton described as a “nice” gesture, but not enough.
“George Floyd should not go down in history as someone with a knee on his neck, but as someone who broke the chain of police brutality and illegality,” Sharpton said.
In a region that had been rocked by several high-profile police killings of Black men before Floyd’s death — including Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by a suburban Minneapolis police officer during a 2016 traffic stop — local activists took aim at Walz, Frey and other elected officials, saying they had not done enough to stop police violence.
“They will show up at your son’s funeral, but they will take no action to prevent it,” said activist Toussaint Morrison, as he stared directly at the politicians in the crowd.
Floyd died May 25, 2020, when he was restrained, handcuffed and face down, on a South Minneapolis street during an investigation following a 911 call about a fake $20 bill that had been passed at a local market. Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck and back for more than nine minutes as Floyd begged for breath and ultimately went limp. Two other former officers — J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas K. Lane — restrained Floyd’s back and legs. A fourth officer, Tou Thao, held back bystanders who sought to intervene.
Chauvin is scheduled to be sentenced on June 25. Kueng, Lane and Thao, who are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter, are scheduled to go on trial next March. All four are also facing federal civil rights charges in the case.
Sunday’s rally and march was the first of several local events to mark Floyd’s death — including a planned vigil Tuesday night at 38th and Chicago, the intersection where Floyd was killed.
Floyd’s family has been a fixture in Minneapolis since his death, attending legal proceedings and appearing at events to urge justice for his death. But this weekend marked the first time that some of the family had made their way to the city where he was killed.
“It was just too overwhelming for me until now,” said Javionne Floyd, 26, the oldest of Floyd’s five children, as he mingled in a crowd packed with people carrying colorful signs imprinted with his father’s face.
Floyd’s son, who lives in Central Florida, spoke of the double traumas of the last year — the death of his father and losing him in such a public way, his killing captured on an excruciating viral video that forever changed the American conversation on race and police violence.
“One day I was just a person living my regular life, and then I was drawn into all of this,” he said.
But like his aunt, who started a foundation to enact racial and social change, Javionne Floyd said he has felt called to service, to use his father’s memory to help “lift up others.” Among other things, he said he is working to set up a scholarship fund to help Black people go to trade school or get their trucking license — as his father had been trying to do before he was forced to drop out for financial reasons.
As the younger Floyd explained his plans, Arnold Wilson, a friend and community activist from Avon Park, Fla., where George Floyd attended college, beamed.
“When people pass, their spirit can live on within us, and that’s what’s happening,” Wilson said, patting Floyd’s son on the arm and motioning to the crowd around him. “George Floyd may be gone, but he’s still alive. His spirit is living on through us, all of us.”